How to Become a Marketing Executive

Bob Ruffolo

Founder & CEO, Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, Recipient of Comparably’s Best CEO ’17

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How to Become a Marketing Executive Blog Feature

Published on March 8th, 2017

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Marketing is a competitive field and most in it are competitive people. 

Virtually every marketer with a little experience under their belt has thought about what it would be like to lead marketing for a brand as a marketing executive and drive it towards success.

However, a desire to lead alone doesn't make a marketing executive. 

As the founder and CEO of an inbound marketing agency, with years of experience working with marketing executives from dozens of mid-market businesses, I've identified five of the most impactful things someone can do to become a marketing executive.

Assuming you are also putting in the work and developing your skills as a marketer, these five things will completely transform your career and put you on the fast-track to executive-level success.

1. Dedicate 10+ Hours a Week to Learning

Top performers never stop learning or trying to improve. It's the only way to reach the top and stay there.

No matter how smart you are or how good you are at marketing now, none of that will matter in a few years because the game is constantly changing.

If you start believing you know everything and slack on your learning, someone else who never took their foot off the gas will eventually replace you.

All of the successful marketing executives I know spend as much time as they can staying up to date by reading books and blog articles, listening to podcasts, and attending conferences.

Savvy marketing executives (and those aspiring to be), absorb everything related to:

  • Sales
  • Leadership
  • Technology
  • Inbound marketing
  • Industry-specific knowledge
  • Social behavior and psychology
  • Marketing history & founding fathers (i.e. Peter Drucker)

There are so many incredible and free resources available today that didn't exist when I was first building IMPACT.

As a result, learning is much easier, but that also means it's easier for everyone else, increasing the competition.

Now you have to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and be continually improving if you want to stand a chance.

2. Focus on Value, Not Salary

Businesses led by money-driven executives are typically only good at one thing -- generating more income for them and other executives.

The best brands in the world are led by value-driven executives that focus more on their contributions to their organizations than their compensation.

Although it seems counterintuitive at first, focusing on value almost always results in higher pay in the long-term.

By focusing on giving your organization as much value as possible right now, you end up making yourself indispensable. Providing more value than expected from a single person, forces your employer to pay you what you're worth because they know if they don't, another company will.

Of course, you shouldn't expect a raise or promotion right away. You have to prove yourself and create measurable results.

If you are self-employed, you can focus on value over pay by:

  1. Building your audience
  2. Providing something unique that makes you indispensable to this audience
  3. Hustling non-stop to provide more value to your customers than anyone else

Overall, this is a basic concept that people tend to lose sight of: you have to give more to receive more.

3. Have a Mentor or Coach

A lot of us are resistant to the idea of hiring a coach or seeking out a mentor; We like the feeling of doings things on our own and being "self-made."

This is a good quality to an extent as it develops your work ethic and forces you to get creative to find solutions, but it almost always limits your ability to become a marketing executive.

The best people in every field hire coaches to help them reach higher levels of performance and identify glaring flaws and opportunities that they may miss. 

This person should guide you along in the journey and be able to help you avoid common pitfalls along the way. They should also give the specific steps you need to take to advance at each stage.

The key to choosing the right mentor or coach is to look for someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish -- or at least has a proven track record of helping others accomplish what you want to.

Even when you find this, however, coaching or mentorship is still a two-way relationship. You have to be transparent with them and be willing to accept criticism when necessary.

In fact, IMPACT has seen some of its biggest growth phases after we've brought in consultants to help us refine our processes and systems. 

For example, for almost two years, we've been work with an amazing Agency Sales Coach, Jack Carroll. He's helped our team grow tremendously not only in generating new sales but also how we work with clients.

Looking back, I would've asked for help in this department and possibly others much sooner.

4. Fail Fast and Often

If you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough.

Marketing executives get things done right more often than not because they have eliminated so many of the wrong ways to do things by failing repeatedly.

I'm not saying you should intentionally fail or make careless decisions with your marketing budget -- I'm saying you should try new things often enough that some of them fail. Then you should learn from those failures and use that knowledge to try more innovative things.

The fear of failure is not only crippling, but it also prevents you from finding the best solutions. To be truly innovative, you have to push boundaries and be willing to enter uncharted waters. As a result, you will fail more often, but when you get things right, you'll be the first to reap all the benefits until other people catch on and figure out what you're doing.

The marketing executives I've worked with have failed a lot, and they continue to fail, but they also still outperform their peers who prefer to play it safe.

5. Build Up Your Influence

Marketing executives need to have influence outside of their organization to thrive in the modern business world. In other words, they need to have a recognizable name, healthy network of peers, and established expertise in their greater industry or field. 

That influence benefits your organization because potential customers want to work with those thought leaders. Influence can also dramatically increase the opportunities you have to work at the executive level, which is why building it is so important. 

The best way to build a following today is through content marketing

You need to create and share content on a regular basis that sparks interest in your peers, provides value (whether it be educational or entertaining), and shares your unique perspective.

You can use whatever content medium suits you best, whether that's video, podcasting, or blogging. In fact, the more, the better.

The larger the audience you create, the more value you bring to a company. Not only will your name generate attention towards the brand, but you will build a better network for hiring talent or marketing opportunities.

Speaking of networking, as a potential marketing executive you should focus a lot of your networking efforts on LinkedIn. There is no other social platform currently that allows you to grow your professional network as quickly and effectively as LinkedIn does right now.

Conclusion

The difference between an average marketer and someone with the potential to be a marketing executive generally comes down to five things that successful marketers are willing to do:

  1. Dedicate 10+ hours a week to learning
  2. Focus on value, not salary
  3. Have a mentor or coach
  4. Fail fast and often
  5. Build up your influence

Although I can't guarantee you will become a marketing executive within the next year or two, if you do the things outlined in this article I promise your career will see significant growth and you will have more opportunities than you do now.

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